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Cancer Prevention Month

Observing Cancer Prevention Month:
Put the Research on Prevention to Work with These Week-By-Week Office Initiatives

This article appears in the February 3, 2014 issue of AICR's Health@Work.

WCD button 2014Tomorrow, February 4th, countries around the globe will observe World Cancer Day, an international event aimed at increasing what we know about cancer and dismissing many of the misconceptions we face about the disease.

Among these misunderstandings is that cancer “just happens,” and that there is nothing we can do to prevent the disease.  In fact, according to a recent AICR-commissioned survey, almost half of all Americans do not know that there are indeed steps they can take today that can help prevent many cancers in the future.

Here in the US, World Cancer Day kicks off Cancer Prevention Month, when organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research redouble their efforts to educate the public about ways to eat better, move more, and achieve – and maintain – a healthy weight. AICR estimates that making these simple, everyday choices could cut the number of cancers that occur in the US each year by about one-third.

Cancer prevention isn’t limited just to what we do at home. We can take the same steps in the workplace. Here’s a handy guide for some easy office initiatives that can get your workplace on the road to reduced cancer risk – one for each week of Cancer Prevention Month.

WEEK 1 (Feb 3-7): Take the Stairs

Being physically active delivers a “double-whammy” against cancer, offering both direct and indirect protection. Indirectly, regular activity helps you keep off body fat (which is itself linked to increased risk for several cancers). Directly, exercise regulates the body’s hormone levels in ways that can help stop many cancers before they start.

Ask your employees to skip the elevator and take the stairs for at least one week. It’s an easy way to fit more activity into the workday – and burn more calories. Once they get into the habit, they may forgo the elevator altogether!

WEEK 2 (Feb 10-14):  Pack a Healthy Lunch

Diets high in a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans are packed with phytochemicals – naturally occurring substances that provide a host of anti-cancer benefits. By making plant foods the focus of your packed lunch, you’ll fill up on fiber and water instead of calorie-loaded fat – and you’ll be able to control the portion sizes, if you’re trying to slim down.

Encourage your coworkers to bring their lunches this week, instead of ordering in or running out for restaurant fare that can sneak in added fat and sodium. You can find plenty of ideas for healthy lunches at

WEEK 3 (Feb 17-21):  Desk Exercises

Recent research has linked sitting for extended lengths of time with some of the biological markers that indicate increased cancer risk. It’s a good idea to break up your workday with a bit of activity every hour.

Check out this AICR video for some easy office workouts to do with your colleagues this week:

WEEK 4 (Feb 24-28):  Walks and Talks

Walking meetings are a great way to get more activity into the workday.

Ask employees to look closely at their schedules. Do they need to meet with a co-worker to hash something through quickly? Or with a small group that won’t require extensive note-taking? Those are great opportunities for walking meetings.  Walk around the office or, weather-permitting, around the block.

And how about asking employees to send one less email each day? Instead, do it the old-fashioned way: Get up from your desk and personally deliver a message to that coworker down the hall (or better yet, up a flight or two of stairs).

If your employees follow these simple steps throughout Cancer Prevention Month, they’ll begin a march toward a healthier lifestyle, and be better protected against cancer and a host of other chronic diseases.

Want to do something every day? Visit our Facebook page for a daily way to fit cancer prevention and health into your life.

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Published on January